Bunmi Adeoye: Getting specific about combatting systemic anti-Black racism

It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing Gavin Barrett’s short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry—marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Barrett writes the profiles as a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better.

Blast your Monday blues away Canadian communicators. Bunmi Adeoye, senior vice-president of Proof Strategies, is in the house.

Bunmi found PR because of Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones. “I had no idea what PR was, but it seemed glamorous,” she laughs. Looking back, Bunmi describes how she broke in as “lightning in a bottle” and largely credits an incredible Black mentor. “(She) poured all her knowledge, energy and faith into me… provided safety, guidance, and care. She saw my potential and was a fierce advocate. She continues to be to this day.”

She stresses that it is vital to treat those who open doors for you with tremendous respect, “because they are putting their name and reputation on the line for you.” Bunmi lives up to her BIPOC mentor’s unwavering support. ”I work very hard to get through the door and to stay in the room,” she says.

Bunmi is also excited to learn from those coming up in the industry. “They are bold, confident, hilarious, and have so much clarity, a relentless desire for purpose, and a keen sense of justice. It is motivating and refreshing.”

Bunmi is proud to have co-authored the Code Black Communicator Network’s Manifesto. “We wanted to get specific about how to address and combat systemic Black racism in our field,” she says. The performative allyship we’ve been seeing makes Bunmi shake her head.

Bunmi wants the industry to have higher standards for inclusion. If we’re in a sea of sameness, we’re not innovating or reflecting the world around us, she says. “Some say it’s a work in progress… I believe that we need to move faster, hit harder.”

As an agent of change herself, Bunmi co-founded Code Black Communicator Network for the advancement of Black communications professionals. She also serves on the comms board of the Black Opportunity Fund, which fights anti-Black racism by funding Black-led businesses and not-for-profits.

”I don’t like confrontation… but I will do it. I have dealt with microaggressions head-on,” she says, though she admits to being taken aback on occasion. “I still get caught off-guard because it is so insidious. Some days, I just need to protect my peace. It helps to have allies at the table who speak up and carry the load… with ferocity.”

Bunmi says to young Black talent, “Rebuke imposter syndrome… never stop learning. Work with integrity. And if you need to create your own lane, do it… You are vitally important.” She often says: “I deserve a seat at the table, but do they deserve me?”

For work, Bunmi holds up “Here Again, At The Cross Roads,” an art exhibit curated by Nia Centre’s Alica Hall. it featured the work of mixed-media artist Jordan Sook, activist-poet Jayda Marley, and photographer Andre D. Wagner. The installations were powerful, truthful and unapologetic.

“I felt a huge responsibility to let nothing distract from this work,” she says. The image she shares, Jordan Sook’s “Thank you for Keeping Us On Track” and Jayda Marley’s “A Ticket to the Revolution” (the vertical poster on the column) is from the exhibit.

My thanks to Masha Mikey for nominating Bunmi.

Gavin Barrett